- top cop says he could have been killed had the planned arrest proceeded
POLICE Commissioner Holomo Molibeli says he is a free man only because Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, defied orders to arrest him during the army deployment on Saturday.
Commissioner Molibeli told the Lesotho Times those who planned his arrest had hoped that he would resist and thus get an excuse to kill him.
He said despite being saved by the “grace of God that always dwells on Lt-Gen Letsoela” he believed those who wanted him arrested would still come back for him. Hence “I have rushed to court to ask for protection”.
While Commissioner Molibeli chose not to name who had issued the instruction for his arrest, the Sunday Express reported that Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had ordered the arrest of the police chief and two of his close subordinates, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa.
The three were supposed to have been put in army custody during the Saturday deployment. Lesotho became awash with rumours that the trio had been arrested in pre-dawn raids of their homes on Saturday. Mr Thabane had made a televised address the same day urging the army to deal severely with all those he claimed were destabilising his government.
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Mr Thabane’s critics had equated the deployment to a coup de ’tat, not to overthrow an existing government, but to keep it in power in light of efforts by the premier’s own party and the opposition to remove him through a legal no confidence vote in parliament. Sources said Mr Thabane had wanted Commissioner Molibeli and his two subordinates arrested because he believes they were part of a plot to oust him.
Had the arrests been done, the sources said DCP Sera Makharilele would have been appointed to act in Commissioner Molibeli’s place.
It has since emerged that DCP Makharilele refused to take up the post after Lt-Gen Letsoela’s intervention. He boldly told Police and Public Safety Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse that it would be contemptuous to do so in light of a latest court order barring the suspension of Commissioner Molibeli.
Mr Thabane has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to fire Commissioner Molibeli after the top cop charged him with the murder of his ex-wife Lipolelo Thabane.
Commissioner Molibeli has won all his court cases against the premier so far including the latest one on Friday after Mr Thabane issued him with a new suspension order and tried to replace him with Mr Moramotse in an acting capacity.
As a last resort, and after losing another case in which he illegally prorogued parliament, the premier is said to have ordered the arrest of Commissioner Molibeli and his assistants by the army and have them charged with treason over their alleged involvement in plots to oust his government.
Commissioner Molibeli had told the Sunday Express on Saturday evening that despite the widespread rumours, he had not been arrested by the army.
In a further interview with the Lesotho Times this week, the police boss extended his heartfelt gratitude to Lt-Gen Letsoela for defying instructions to arrest him.
“I am aware that an instruction was given to the Lesotho Defence Force to arrest me but thanks to the grace of God that always dwells on General Letsoela, that plan did not succeed,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
“The reasons for my arrest are unclear but I was going to be arrested and handed over to the one who had been tipped to be an acting commissioner (DCP Makharilele) and they would then decide my fate”.
He said those who planned his arrest had hoped that he would resist and therefore give them an excuse to kill him. It could then be claimed he was killed while resisting arrest.
“The plan was to kidnap me. They had hoped that I would resist the kidnapping and be killed in the process. They are going to come after me again and so I have rushed to court to ask for protection. Other than asking the court to protect me, I have no intention of using any kind of force to protect myself,” he said.
Commissioner Molibeli on Friday sought and obtained an interim court order barring Dr Thabane from suspending him again, until his main application for the nullification of the planned suspension is finalised.
Justice Semapo Peete twice ruled in favour of the commissioner at the weekend starting with the Friday order halting the suspension. When it became clear that Mr Thabane was proceeding with appointing DCP Makharilele to act in the post, Commissioner Molibeli went back to court and got another order stopping that move on Sunday.
Commissioner Molibeli paid tribute to Lt-Gen Letsoela for playing peacemaker by diffusing a volatile situation at the police headquarters. He said on Saturday morning the army commander went to the police headquarters where he mediated between feuding police officers who were divided between those who still backed him and those who supported his purported “replacement” DCP Makharilele.
“…The one who had been appointed acting commissioner (DCP Makharilele) called the police (on Saturday morning) and informed them that he was now in charge.
“So General Letsoela went to a meeting at Police Headquarters to calm the situation. General Letsoela and his team stepped in and resolved a conflict that may have been caused by division over the appointment (of DCP Makharilele),” Commissioner Molibeli said.
DCP Makharilele declined the appointment after Lt-Gen Letsoela’s intervention.
“I am in receipt of your letter dated 18 April 2020 directing me to essentially act in the office of the Commissioner of Police,” DCP Makharilele states in a letter to Mr Moramotse on Saturday.
“While I am duty bound to take orders from my superiors, it is important that such orders should be in compliance with the law. The incumbent Commissioner of Police (Molibeli) has an interim order directing that he should remain in office pending the hearing of his case.
“I would therefore, be contemptuous to act in his office while the courts have directed that the status quo should remain. I therefore humbly request that the issue be kept in abeyance until such time the case would have been dealt with to finality. I hope this would not be interpreted as undermining superior orders,” DCP Makharilele states.